03 January 2007

Why I Quit Zines (edited from original)

**Warning for the children: Some anger and curse words ahead**

Since I was twelve years old (and I'm 22 now, so that's ten years ago), I have been involved in an underground publishing movement known as zines. Within this movement you can find many different sects, focusing on almost every imaginable topic, but I found my niche in riot girl/post riot girl perzines. Translations: Riot Girl was a punk feminist youth movement, and perzine is short for "personal zine," which generally center around issues in the author's personal life. Often our zines were more like letters to close friends; we revealed secrets about ourselves we weren't able to reveal in our lives, the real life ways that mysogynistic culture had harmed our lives, our body image issues, our eating disorders, our stories of rape and incest and molestation, our self-mutilation and psychiatric troubles. We were surviving and we were documenting everything, and to me that was so revolutionary. Teenage girls do not often get that kind of opportunity to express themselves. It was a place where I could be angry, where I could be sad, where I could cuss and accuse and assert myself. This was not a place that I would have had without zines.

I believed in the possibility of rejecting traditional modes of media, which did not represent us or our interests, and creating our own media. I believed in all the revolutionary possibilities for real changes, for informed discussion and dialog and social change. I had so much hope for the transformative power of individual's own accounts of lived experience.

It took me years to understand my identity as a mixed white/Arab. Although I have experienced prejiduce and discrimination related to being Arab most of my life, like many others I previously identified as white. At some point during my "transformation" from white to non-white, I began to have a real problem with the racism inherent in a "community" that laments their lack of color (or denies it), but does nothing to support it's few members who are of color. I began writing primarily about racial issues and my own struggles with them in my zine, which was/is also called No Snow Here, and continued writing about feminist issues as well. I made connections with other zine writers of color, who I still consider a vital support system. My zine started to become more popular than it had ever been before, but I felt as though this popularity could be attributed to shallow issues of social acceptance. I became very skeptical of the motives of white people who read my zine, and didn't understand what exactly they liked about it. I came to the conclusion that I was being used to validate them, to allow them to ensure themselves that they weren't racist because they had just committed the anti-racist action of reading something written by a non-white person. I felt like a token.

This point became clearer still to me when a white Jewish woman who writes sex-positive feminist oriented zines approached me to work with her on a split zine (Translation: A split zine is one that is coauthored by two different zine writers, usually divided in half between the two), but quickly rescinded her offer when I let her know, in no uncertain terms, that I am profoundly opposed to the colonialist occupation of Palestine (EDIT: and I also said that I hate Zionists, which is true, but I don't know if "hate" fully expresses the complexity of it). She wanted to write a zine with me to show that a Palestinian and a Jew can dialog and work together, but as soon as I began to express something that indicated that I did not enjoy a situation in which she has unbridled access to a country that no one in my family can even visit, she didn't want to dialog anymore (EDIT: The preceding sentance was edited from the original to better express what I was trying to say). I thought, what in the hell was she expecting? And of course, the answer is obvious. Just like those good people looking to my zine for validation, she had chosen me to validate herself. Just like them, she was using me to make herself look anti-racist. In the end, it was all about how I'd victimized her and how much I hated her people.

This culture of victimization, in which victimhood is traded as social currency (an idea I attribute to RW, who first brought it to my attention), makes it chic to be oppressed. This accounts for the way no one at a radical skillshare or conference will talk to me until they find out I'm Palestinian. So in zines, it is no longer about the radical possibilities about surviving and bearing witness, but about wearing victimhood as a badge of pride. Well fuck it. I am nobody's token and I am nobody's victim.

My thoughts and words and time are too valuable to waste on a "community" that ultimately is not interested in change, dialog, respect or revolution. There are things that I want to accomplish and I know that I can't accomplish them within an insular community of ass-kissing circle jerks. This month, my first article in a mainstream publication was published, and when I got my check, the first thing I thought was, "Zines never got me paid." Don't try calling me a sell-out, ya'll sold me out a long time ago.


Move The Crowd said...

WOW! u go girl. it's not selling out. it's called "growing up".

Nadia said...


and the topics and ideas covered on your blog are great, ya'll should start updating it again. take care!

taghrid a. said...

i was actually looking for your zine, i saw it in ellegirl &online. idk if i qualify for arab-american. im from syriaa but whatevs. i wanted to start a zine but after reading your entry i guess it makes more sense to do something for yourself. and that if you like it, thats enough. reply if you have the time :]

Nadia said...

hi taghrid! i'm glad you found my blog. but if you want to write a zine, i think you should go for it. it all depends on what you want to get out of it, and i think it also depends on who your audience is. doing zines has been a big part of my life, and i learned a lot and made a lot of good friends, but ultimately i realized that my goals had changed, and i wasn't able to accomplish my new goals with zines. it seems like the community of people writing personal zines now aren't as interested in the things i'm interested in. it seems like some people are more interested in popularity than in being real and honest in their zine. but i definately don't want my experience to deter you from trying something that might end up being great for you. i agree with you, the most important thing is to do for yourself, and if you want to do a zine, then girl you better do a zine! :)

i think that i might like to do a zine again someday, but not the same kind of zine i used to do, and also directed to arab women or women of color. who knows?

here are some links you might be interested in:
http://www.countercurrents.org/gen-nettnin270206.htm (this is an article about AMWAJ arab women's conference, and this is the google group for the conference: http://groups.google.com/group/amwaj2006 )
http://www.hermanaresist.com/maiz.html (this is a link to a compilation zine of writing by women of color. i have a piece in the zine, and the editor, noemi martinez, is a great writer who also runs a zine distro.on this page there is also a link to the POC zinesters livejournal community, which might be a good resource for you)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/05/24/DDGMJ6P1L41.DTL (an article on arab american writer diana abu jabar)

haha, long comment! but i am really happy you contacted me, ever since that ellegirl article came out i always waited for arab girls to contact me and you're the first! take care sis and respond when you have time!